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Gregg Allman: Back To The Blues

Gregg Allman’s first solo album in 14 years goes back to the roots of the blues.

Jane Clayson in for Tom Ashbrook

Greg Allman. His new album is "Low Country Blues."

Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band helped invent Southern Rock in the ’60s and ’70s, taking inspiration from a host of musical traditions and making them his own.

Now, Gregg is out with a new album that goes back to one deep, rich, thread of his earliest inspiration – the blues.

On “Low Country Blues,” he reinterprets songs by great bluesmen Muddy Waters, Sleepy John Estes, Junior Wells and more.

He’s with us to talk about the music, the history, and his life in the blues.

This hour, On Point: Gregg Allman goes back to the blues.

- Jane Clayson

Guest:

Gregg Allman, founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  His new album is “Low Country Blues.”

Listen to some of the new album:

Listen to more of Allman’s music here

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  • Gary

    Will you compare and contrast Duane Allman and Derek Trucks?

    • geffe

      I’m not sure it’s fair to compare Derek to him other than to say he does seem to channel Duane’ spirit. Derek is obviously heavily influenced by Duane. Derek is also influenced by John Coltrane and his style and improvisational ideas reflect a some different directions that Duane was on.

      Duane Allman was one of the finest guitarist of his or any generation for that matter.

      Brett I liked “Devil Got My Woman”. I also own the original Skip James recording. I hear what your saying but I don’t think it lost any conviction at all. Mind you it was not as powerful as the original, but that’s some hard shoes to fill.

      • Casper02081

        There is a GREAT festival in Live Oak, Fl. every April called “Wanee Fest.” The headliners are the Allman Bros and all side projects of theirs. Plus many other fine acts chosen by Greg. This year some of the bigger names will be Robert Plant and his Band of Joy, Steve Miller Band and Widespread Panic. After that the list is endless. It is at a beautiful campground on the Suwanee River called “Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park.” You can tell that they all enjoy playing there. It’s “home.” We’ll be heading down from Boston again. Can’t wait!

        BTW-thanks for the heads up. I won’t bother listening to this interview.

    • greenman

      Differnet folks with different roots. Duane played with intense emotion and set the bar that no one, bar none will exceed. Try Lee Roy Parnell for slide!

  • Brett

    If anyone has a right to sing the Blues it’s Mr. Allman; some of those dues have been self-levied, some have been tragedies no one should have to bear…I first started playing Allman Brothers tunes soon after they came out with their first album in the dawn of the ’70′s. As a drummer and guitarist, I always appreciated two guitar players and two drummers. Jaimoe has always been an inspiration, as are Butch Trucks and both Dickey and Duane. I learned to sing the Blues from listening to Gregg sing, and in listening to him I could always hear the singers who influenced him.

    I listened to the Skip James’ tune (Devil Got My Woman). It started hopeful (I don’t know who’s playing acoustic guitar, but it would not be implausible to think it’s Gregg; he’s a fine acoustic player in open tunings), but when the percussion and electric guitar came in I was turned off. The soul of the song was lost. As Mr. Allman knows, James wrote some of the saddest Blues songs ever written, and the sadness is conveyed in very subtle ways, rising to the surface from a deeply troubled and dark place. Allman had a chance to do what he does best: convey a deep conviction that can only be transmitted from having lived through something. The percussion and electric guitar took the sadness away; they took away the conviction, and they took the soul of the song with them. A better arrangement would have been an all acoustic rendition, maybe mostly one guitar with a second acoustic guitar in places.

    In Floating Bridge, suspending disbelief was easier, and the song was arranged and orchestrated much better.

    I’ll listen to the others; I’ll give them a shot. The fact that Gregg Allman is a genuine Blues treasure can not be denied, but so far the CD sounds overproduced.

    • greenman

      Yes, agreed. The album is way over produced. I don’t understand the whole thing about T. Bone Burnett being so good. I am sooo thankful that Grace Potter told Burnett to stuff it and she went and recorded her latest album with her own band.

  • Chris B

    Gregg is the author of one of my favorite quotes: “Rap is short for crap!”

    Amen, Gregg! Keep ‘em flying!

  • Gregg

    There aren’t many true Hammond players left but Mr. Allman is a great one. The B-3 is a beast and many use it like one but the subtle techniques of using the drawbars and swells can create an infinite world of color and texture.

  • geffe

    I am sorry but I had to turn this off. Jane is not a good interviewer for musicians. Poor Gregg. I doubt she even knows who the slide is on Layla.

  • Tina

    Jane, I do NOT mean to be rude, but ….

    May I ask you, please do NOT interrupt the guest when he is answering.
    Many of us want to hear him even more than the questions, I think.

    Thank you so much.

  • shelton

    Whoa, there could have been such a great discussion with this great musician. Couldn’t OnPoint have found someone who knew something about musicianship and music history to help out with the interview?

  • Stillin

    I’m glad Gregg is still alive and kicking…and I still love to hear “tied to the whipping post” although it is nothing I listen to today. Not an easy person to interview…I think the interviewer is working for her money today, you know…the south is s-l-o-w, and radio is rapid….you really notice with this interview…it’s quite the juxtiposition.

    • Brett

      That’s an interesting observation. Gregg seems like a lot of people who are from the Carolinas on down to Florida

    • Tayloe

      LOL – that was exactly same thought (sadly) that I had… I was wishing that I was sitting on the porch where I lived for a spell in NE ‘bama sipping some sweet tea while listening to some Allman’s while this interview was going on, instead of driving here in NE Hoosierana land.

  • Prestonpresley2

    The Allman Brothers are the great American Band.
    And I agree with the previous comment. Why would you not use an interviewer that knows something about the Allman Brothers, or music even. She did not even know what Bonnaroo is.

    • Dennisccallan

      She obviously never listened to Gregg talk before. He is very thoughtful and appears slow to the uninitated. This interviewer had no clue what she was doing. Typical NPR stuff.

      • Anonymous

        A great interview with Gregg would be one where he just rambles for an hour or two. i like listening to his slow natural way of talking. he was not given enough time to recant. The clipped questions and cut-off responses–ask a question and then don’t give the man time to respond felt a little rude to me. it sno wonder he is interview shy–they take a great thing and commercialize it and don’t understand, don’t care about it and cant really appreciate the man or the music. He handled it really well, but i bet he dreads these things. Just let the man play music–that’s how he talks. His personal life has nothing to do with us and should have been respected. He doesn’t know you, us–why should he talk to us about intimate details and feelings about the people in his life. He’s a music man, not Oprah or Dr. Phil.

  • Mahaines

    Man, she is trying as hard as she can to do an interview. Maybe it is too early for Gregg.

  • streethound

    Huge Tom Ashbrook/On Point fan! I am sorry but the drop off to Jane Clayson is severe. I’m sure she has her skill set, but subbing for Tom is not one. Not her format. Please find another substitute. Deadly. A “turn off” on most topics.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

    “Squirming along with Jane.” With all due respect, it would have been a far better show if Ms. Clayson had been thoroughly prepared before interviewing the American music legend. Love Gregg Allman, just can’t stand how shallow and uninformed the host’s questions have been.

  • Boston lover of blues

    There is an unreleased jam session among GREGG ALLMAN AND ERIC CLAPTON?! That should not be legal. Gregg, do you have any pull to get that out to us?

    • Greenman

      It was released years ago. Go buy the Layla box set to get it.

  • Bbb

    Gregg is a guitar god but a crappy interview.

    • geffe

      Gregg play the B3 and piano and some guitar. You’re thinking of his late brother Duane. Who died in 1971 at age 25 in a motorcycle accident.

      • geffe

        I meant Gregg plays the Hammond B3 organ.

  • capt.ADK’er

    LIVE AT THE FILLMORE-
    the greatest synthesis of r&r/blues/jazz ever performed.

  • Mike

    Painful interview. I guess too early for Allman. Could have been some better informed questions though.

  • Robert Riversong

    I love Greg Allman’s music. The rock ‘n roll highlight of my life was the 1973 Watkins Glen Festival, with the Allman Brothers, the Dead and the Band jammin’ ’til 4 in the morning.

    Jane’s getting a lot of flack for the shallowness of this interview, but I have to say that Greg comes across as a man who’s never confronted the emotional and intellectual depths and shadows of his life – except through his music, which gives it that blues depth. He sounds like the unreformed addict who just can’t go below the surface on anything of substance or face the traumas and challenges of his past.

    Love the music, but I can’t say I like the man.

    • Joe1745ny

      man!- that was spot on surgical. thanks for the analysis

    • Tina

      Maybe he just doesn’t want to “go there” publicly.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

      Good point. I wish he’d been braver in discussing the early years with Duane & Dicky. Some powerful emotional barriers are still firmly set in place, I sensed.

      Jane gave it a yeoman’s try, though, which I admire in a journalist. Lord knows, when I was charged with interviewing folks like Ramblin’ Jack Elliot & Richie Havens I had to knuckle down and dig deep for questions that didn’t sound trite & hackneyed. She’ll get the knack, too, by and by. Or, they can always hire ME, an award-winning veteran music journalist. I’ll work for cheap, too…..

  • Michael

    I knew we were in trouble when Jane played Ramblin’ Man as a transition during the interview. The song was written and sung by Dicky Betts. I finally had to turn it off when she asked about Cher. Greg may be a tough interview, but Jane sure didn’t help herself.

    • Rick

      I usualy like Jane’s work, but I really have to agree with you on this one. And her producer bares some responsibility here too. Having them play Ramblin’ Man reveals that some sure forgot to do their homework going in to the interview.

  • geffe

    She mentioned Sher! Oh for Pete’s sake.

    • geffe

      I meant Cher… silly me.

      I’m glad this was not Tom Waits…

    • greenman

      Gregg did a great job of answering the Cher question. No delay and to the point. Very similar to responses in previous interviews.

  • Rick

    Is there anyone out there who, like me, would like Gregg to re-record some old pre-Allman Brothers Hourglass songs? I know all about how Hourglass was mishandled and poorly produced by their record company at the time, but they still left behind a handfull of great tracks. The best Hourglass stuff was recorded as self-produced demos after their two Liberty Records were released. The one I would probably most like to hear him record, either solo or with the ABB, is Gregg’s own composition called Been Gone Too Long.

  • Brett

    Callers wanting a talk about Duane? Interviewer asking about Cher? Caller mentioning a bootleg of the man’s music? Wow! Knowing how the man handles interviews, I’m surprised he didn’t walk off mic.

  • Brother Black

    This was painful to listen to. Each time Gregg was just getting into his response the interviewer would cut him off. When she did let him speak she kept uh huh umm hmm under him. What a disappointment. He doesn’t give many interviews and when he does give us one this host blew it.

  • Tayloe

    Just now hearing this cast… and (besides the good comments below), Thanks to Greg, and his wonderful extended family, for all that you’ve shared with us, of your time and talents. There ain’t much better than this music.

  • Hillbob60

    I think Gregg was quite willing to discuss to his brother in the context of his music and influences. He didn’t want to rehash some weird conspiracy theory of his brother’s tragic accident, and I don’t blame him for that. I do have to say that this interview was not well researched by NPR. I don’t think that anyone listening to this show cared about Cher. This gifted artist has had such a rich life and career it’s hard to believe that this researcher spent more than twenty minutes looking for questions to ask someone that they knew absolutely nothing about. It’s no wonder Gregg doesn’t do more interviews!

  • Rikmc007

    Listening to this taped this evening. Gosh. This guy is a legend. Would you let the poor man finish a thought? He’s so rich in rock and blues history, why is this interview becoming a race to get your questions answered?

    • TOS

      This is dead on. Greg would do some thinking out loud, then as he was ready to give an answer Jane would ask another question. Jane is not use to talking to people like Greg.

      Jane pronouncing bass as if it was a fish, was very painful. I normally like Jane, but she blew this interview.

  • Allmans fan

    Painful to listen to. I saw Gregg and band play in VT in January. The music sounded good but the band seemed robotic. No on-stage talk, emotion, or exchanges at all. Maybe that’s the way he has always been (that’s fine), maybe he’s still recovering from major health issues. But Jane’s interview would have flattened anyone’s enthusiasm. Do a little prep next time, please! Admittedly this wasn’t going to be an easy interview but Tom would have made it work, I think. If you want to see Gregg at his solo best, check out the 1997 “Searching for Simplicity” album. Very soulful, humble, introspective, and musical.

  • BJ

    This was tough to listen to, but I don’t know if Tom wouldn’t have been much better…leave this stuff to Terry Gross

  • Aweful

    this. was. bad. Didn’t know Betts was a founding member? Homework . . .

  • Carlottau

    You can get more info from Scott Freeman’s book on the Allman Brothers, “Midnight Rider”. Also, “The Big House” in Macon, Ga. is now a museum. I’m in agreement with the discussion here, uninformed interviewer and a tough interviewee made for a slow, painful interview. Too bad the music tracks, sans Ramblin Man, were so short.

    • Greenman

      Better than “Midnight Rider” which the band does not like, you should read Willie Perkins book or the Duane Allman bio.

  • Miker3709

    No matter how the interview went, Gregg Allman has written and produced some of the most awesome blues/rock tunes in the world. I’ve seen the Brothers live so many times, so many memories. Their music just doesn’t burn out! Long live the ABB and I wish Brother Gregg peace and good health.

    If you get a chance, go to the “Big House” in Macon, Ga.

    Awesome!!!

    Mike from Florida…………………..

  • Paul

    A lot of criticism of Jane here that I don’t understand…Clearly Gregg is a little rough around the edges from years of hard living. Many times I heard him hesitate, delay and search for answers. A few times he just couldn’t find an answer and seemed to be lost.

    I love the guy and his music, but please recognize that Jane’s was a tough job.

    I enjoyed the interview.

  • Ron

    Greg Allman was never a man of many words but he spoke volumes about himself and hard times in his revealing songs. His agonizing blues based lyrics right from the early start of his career and through this interview tell the story of a man that can’t be simply defined by anyone yet alone Greg himself. I was a fan of the AB’s Band from day one and saw the original member band twice with Duane Allman, Berry Oakley and Dicky Betts. I also saw them many times over the years and even on various solo tours. No one has guitar tone or chops like these guy’s did and the whole band really could cook especially given their age at the time (all under 30). Trust me as polished as the new incarnation of the Allman’s might be they are no match for the sheer jazz/rock blues based burn of the original line up. It was genius and nothing less. No one could improvize like that original band and they were having a good night it was magical. That Fillmore album has few if any “fixes”…. imagine that in todays Disney engineered pop star world. The interviewer should have done her homework and asked more relevant questions about the band, rise and fall from fame, roots of the music, how they were so good so young! etc. That said, Greg used up plenty of brain cells over the years with booze and drugs and add that to his Southern comfort spirit certainly helped make for a slow drawl of an interview.

  • Anonymous

    I have seen many shows in and around central NY, festivals, concerts, dueling saxes at Oneida Casino resort over dinner. I love you guys, love your music Gregg. There is nothing like the energy in your music, at your shows. thanks.

  • Metrocal

    Why is Mr. Allman so silent about the legacy of Black people and Blues? He seems so indifferent.

    • jef3dJef3d

      If you knew anything about Mr. Allman or his band you would realize how foolish your statement is. The Allman Brothers band is composed of four white southerners, two African Americans and a New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage. During their concerts there is a giant screen in back of the stage that shows photographs and some archival movie footage of many of the great blues legends … including, Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf among others …. ALL BLACK PEOPLE!!!!!
      Mr. Allman is not silent at all …. you are merely uninformed

  • http://kakyli.ru Max
  • Lakrit_Blues

    I admire the blues, this is a wonderful style which makes it possible to tell the person and pass on their thoughts and feelings of others using improvisation … only five colors can make incredible!
    I began my guitar and play with the development of blues improvisation … this style of teaching people to be sincere!

    http://lakrit.tk/

  • Luciana lee

    This is one of the best.. Greg REALLY delivers! I love the CD!

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